Hark, I Hear the Harps Eternal is a well known text in the choral community that is commonly paired with the hymn tune “Invitation New,” from William Walker’s enduring compilation of 1835, “The Southern Harmony, and Musical Companion.” The text (attributed to F. R. Warren), it should be noted, does not appear in Walker’s compilation, but has been long associated with the tune.
The tune in this piece is newly composed, though it is in the style of a folk anthem. However, it projects a different tone from other more lively settings that are more familiar to choral musicians.
This piece can be performed as a companion piece to The Promised Land, also published by ECS (Catalog No. 7855), which is also a newly composed tune of a familiar folk anthem text. The final chord of Hark, I Hear the Harps Eternal is the same as the key (E major) at the beginning of The Promised Land, allowing for a smooth segue without pausing for a new pitch, if the conductor so desires. The texts of these two pieces provide a rich and intriguing unity of imagery, from hearing the harps on the distant shore, to crossing into the promised land.
Hark, I Hear the Harps Eternal was premiered on July 3, 2010 by the Orange County Choral Society (Christopher Gravis, director). It was the winner of the ensemble’s 2010 Magnum Opus Composition Competition.